Sunday, November 2, 2008

Recipe: Academica-Style Steak Sandwiches

In 1993 my friend Tom asked me to join him for lunch at a local Portuguese bar. We ended up at the Academica Association in my hometown of Fall River, Massachusetts. The Academica is an informal little Portuguese place that has a bar side and a restaurant side. We chose the bar side. When I asked what to order he suggested the steak sandwich and fries. At the time I didn't realize how my choice would affect the eating habits of so many people.

When the plates arrived, the portions were large which is not unusual for a Portuguese restaurant. A large, medium-crust bread which had been sliced lengthwise and filled with reddish brown steak topped with cooked whole garlic cloves and sliced red peppers. There was also a hefty pile of fries on the plate as well. I bit into the sandwich and was really surprised at how phenomenally good it was. Luck of luck, the fries were equally tasty. Well, I wasn't 4 bites into the sandwich and I knew I'd be back, and back I went, and continue to go to this day.

I introduced a few friends and family to the place and mentioned it to others and soon it was a hit amongst them. It wasn't an uncommon occurrence to have a friend mention they had just been to the Academica and then express how good it was. One friend in particular, Dave Lebouef, started getting take out there. Dave is one of my oldest friends and it was his luck that I told him about the Academica, but my luck that he went and became interested in it.

Dave's friends also know him as the "Technician" because of his pragmatic approach to the process of things that interest him. Well, during his visits to the Academica, he studied the processes of cooking those steak sandwiches and experimented on his own at home. He soon came up with an excellent version. Like most things in life the simplest things are often the best, and such it is with these sandwiches. This recipe is my adaptation of Dave's. I think I use a little more garlic than Dave does, that's about it. Oh no wait, I also take my sandwiches with a half bottle of Dao wine as well! You'll read more about Dave elsewhere here, but know he makes major contributions to our cooking circle.

Academica-Style Steak Sandwiches

Steak, not too thick, cubed steak works well. It should be 1/4" to 3/8" thick.
Stick-style sandwich bread
1 TBS Olive oil
8 to 12 cloves of garlic
Pickled sweet red peppers (mild to medium heat, sliced and seeded)
Frank's Hot Sauce® or Texas Pete's Hot Sauc
1 tsp butter
Salt to taste

Heat a large saucepan over a medium-high flame.

Add olive oil, when it begins to shimmer, add the steaks to the pan.

Salt steaks and add some hot sauce to the top of steaks while cooking.

Toss garlic cloves around the pan. Move it around frequently so it does not burn.

When steaks are half done, turn them over, add a pinch of salt and more hot sauce.

Move pan contents so the ingredients blend well.

Turn steaks when done and be sure all the liquid ingredients in the pan blend well.

Add a teaspoon of butter to mix and blend in.

Swirl steaks around in sauce, move onto bread, add a little of the garlic and top with pickled sweet red peppers.

Serve with french fries.

Recipe: Academica-Style Steak Sandwiches from Chop Onions, Boil Water by Henry Krauzyk

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